OK, let’s see if I can pull off this post. If not, I blame it on whatever little beastie went after Amanda’s computer. My intention is to bring this around to the Regency era. (waving of hands.)
I live in the country, and the other day, I tweeted the picture you see here. (Blogger isn’t letting me add images right now so I’m off to fetch the embed code from my flickr account . . . BRB)
OK! I took that picture from the deck of my house this past weekend. What I was thinking at the time was that there was SNOW on the mountains. SNOW! Around here, we call them the Sonoma Mountains, even though everyone knows they’re really just hills. The snow level has to be down to 1500-2000 feet for there to be snow on the Sonoma Mountains.
I tweeted the picture thinking everyone would be all, OMG, that’s SNOW on the Sonoma Mountains and that one or two people who live where there is actual weather would tell me to grow a pair. (Hey, I stood on the deck in my jammies and slippers and took that picture! It was kind of cold. Sort of.) I just looked up the elevation of my town. It’s 12-400 feet. That morning, the house was about 30 minutes and 1500 feet of elevation from SNOW and 30 minutes and let’s say 12-400 feet of elevation from the Pacific Ocean.
Instead of the comments I expected, many people on twitter said they wanted to move in with me. Because, as I had actually forgotten in my excitement over SNOW!! on the Sonoma Mountains, our house has a spectacular view. In fact, most of that side of the house is sliding glass doors that look onto variations of that view. Mostly without snow, I should add.
Which Got Me To Thinking
If you live in a city, it’s easy to get divorced from nature. In the US, most of us aren’t getting our food from a garden or the farm, or the neighbor’s farm. We get eggs from the store, not chickens. Our meat comes from the meat department, not from the butchered pig we raised.
When we eat a delicious melon, we don’t save the seeds so we can plant them and eat the same melon again next year.
When we go outside at night, we can’t see the stars and for many of us, we can barely see the moon.
We have declining variety in our food because we stopped saving seeds to plant.
A few stories
We have chickens at our house, and my son has grown up on fresh eggs from chickens that roam around during the day eating what comes naturally to chickens. Eggs from chickens like this taste different. They look different — the yolks are an intense golden-yellow-orange. They behave differently in recipes.
Then a coyote ate the chickens — during the day! and we had to buy store bought eggs while we waited for the weather to warm up enough for us to buy new chicks, and then for the chicks to turn into hens and then for the eggs to get past the tiny pullet stage . . .
The first time my son saw scrambled eggs from store bought eggs, he wanted to know what was wrong with them. Because they were anemic looking. They were pale, pale, yellow instead of a strong yellow. They didn’t taste all that great either. Compared to real eggs.
Fresh vegetables from a garden are kind of the same experience.
When I was a kid, my folks had one of our lambs slaughtered and my mom fed us lamb chops shortly thereafter. We all sat there, in silence, staring at our plates. No one moved to so much as pick up a fork. We were all thinking how we’d watched that lamb gamboling in the field. My mother sighed, took away the lamb chops and fed us Cheerios for dinner.
She could do that because my father was a physician and she had been to the grocery store to buy food. We didn’t need those home grown lamb chops for survival. It’s astonishing when you think about it.
And all that got me to thinking that if you don’t have electricity, you know what dark is. You know there are degrees of outside dark at night and how incredibly bright a full moon is. You can see the stars at night.
Even if you, in the Regency past, do not yourself farm, you are aware of the seasons of farming and what that means for the food that can be easily put on your plate at a given season. Your mode of transportation is your own two feet or powered by an animal who must be fed, watered and cared for.
In the developed world of the 21st century we’ve gotten very far from nature, and every now and then, I get reminded of that.
Since I write stories set in the past, I think it’s a good idea for me to occasionally take a few moments to think of all the ways I am divorced from nature and all the lore we no longer know– because we have no reason to care exactly when the full moon is, for example — and that people in the Regency did know.
Not that I’d give up my civil rights, vaccinations or my iPhone. But it’s interesting to think about.
What do you think we miss most from that past? What modern invention could you least do without? Let’s take medicine off the table on that last one because everyone chiming in with “Antibiotics!” and “Emergency Room Staff” would get dull pretty quickly.